Health Concern

Statement from New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker on Overnight Summer Camps

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 12, 2020) - Throughout this entire public health response, there isn't a single decision we have not made based on data and science, rather than emotion. Using the best currently available science and data, I have reached a decision to prohibit overnight children's camps from operating this season in New York State.

Unlike day camps, which are approved to open June 29, overnight camps are a difficult setting to manage social distancing and face covering and infection control practices. Overnight camps have congregate settings and sleeping arrangements in close quarters that present too many risks. In such a setting, even a single positive case in a camper or staff member could create an untenable quarantine situation and overwhelm camp health personnel that may not be able to handle a serious infectious outbreak of this nature.

I have fond memories of summer sleepaway camp as a kid and I understand the role they play in childhood development and the disappointment this decision may bring to families across the state. But amid the worst public health crisis in a century, my number one priority is the health and safety of all New Yorkers. And while infection rates are declining, we need to proceed with caution and take every step possible to avoid undoing all the progress New Yorkers have made in bending the curve and reopening the state safely and responsibly.

YMCA Camp Onyahsa COVID-19 Statement, 5/22/2020

Dear Campers and Families:   

I hope you are all doing well amid the current Covid-19 crisis. 

We know you are waiting to hear our summer plans. Unfortunately, due to the novel nature of this coronavirus, public health officials do not yet have the data they need to provide definitive guidance on summer youth camp operations in New York State.

Thus, we do not yet have the permission we need to go forward with resident camping this summer, and we assume this will not be forthcoming in time to inform families and to prepare our program, staff, and site in order to offer a quality camping experience.

Sadly, for the first time in Onyahsa’s 122-year history, we will therefore be forced to suspend summer overnight youth camp. I apologize for this difficult decision that has been forced through no fault of any of us, but one that we must now face together.

Instead of overnight youth camp, Onyahsa will propose the following programs to the New York State Department of Health:

  • Expanded child care opportunities: We are planning to offer Monday-Friday full-day day care opportunities for youth ages 5-13 (in three separate programs); soon after we have State permission until August 14th. Tuition information will be based on that for our long-established Day Camp in the Woods program and the program, with strict health protocols, will be held at our 180-acre outdoor lakefront site with the Onyahsa staff.
  • Weekend day and overnight programs for families: Households of up to six persons can register for four, eight, or 24 hours of activities such as boating, swimming, crafts, Nature, Sports, Challenge and others with the Onyahsa staff from Saturday mornings through Sunday afternoons. The maximum enrollment will be three, non-intersecting, households (or a total of 18 participants). A description, cost, and schedule will be available on our website soon.

We will also offer the following massively-expanded Fall and Winter opportunities, which will begin as soon as it is safe to do so:

  • Youth Weekends (ages 5-13) every First and Third weekend of the month, from Saturday am through Sunday afternoon. Meals, bedding, and program included.
  • Family Weekends, every Second weekend of the month, from Saturday am through Sunday afternoon. Meals, bedding, and program included.
  • Families and Group Rentals, every fourth (and fifth) weekend of the month.  Onyahsa is a great spot for families to de-quarantine, for weddings, or for group programs through the Fall and Winter.
  • Cabin and/or Site Rentals (no programming or meal service), most weekdays from late August through December and beyond.

Finally, Onyahsa is exploring the feasibility of becoming a licensed childcare site weekdays through the school-year for elementary-grade students.

What to do:

You may transfer your resident camp deposit to another summer session, to any of the new Fall-Winter programs, or toward the family rental opportunities listed above.  

Alternatively, you may transfer your credit to our Summer 2021 program and be guaranteed 2020 tuition and placement.

As a small not-for-profit Camp that operates on very thin margins primarily through summer programs, we would very much appreciate the donation of your deposit so that Onyahsa may weather this current crisis and come out stronger on the other side.

We apologize for this disappointment, but are heartened to know that we are all in this together.  We hope to see you this summer for Family Activities or Child Care; and/or during our new and exciting Fall and Winter offerings.  Until then, stay “Rough and Ready.”

In Solidarity,

Jon

Jon O’Brian, Director

YMCA Camp Onyahsa

YMCA Camp Onyahsa COVID-19 Statement, 4/10/2020

Dear Camp Onyahsa Parents, Guardians, and Staff:

The safety, health and happiness of our campers and staff is our highest priority. As you know, the novel Corona virus (COVID-19) has put most of the country, and much of the world, under lockdown.  As a new virus, by definition much is unknown, which makes predicting our summer operations contingent at best.  We are now uncertain whether the warmer and more humid months will reduce the prevalence of infection, and while most of the infected still are asymptomatic, the disease has severely afflicted younger people more than was initially thought.   

We are working with the Chautauqua County Department of Health, as well as National and New York State YMCA Camps and the American Camping Association as we develop contingency models for the summer, however there is much we all still do not know. 

Here is what we do know: 

We will not operate summer programs if it is unsafe to do so. Our mission is to promote health; in spirit, mind, body, and community; to run programming with a high likelihood of Corona virus transmission would be antithetical to our purpose.  

We operate under licensure from the New York State Department of Health. If the DOH decides summer camps cannot run, we will not operate.  A decision is expected in early May. There are some encouraging signs in New York State; our County has only had 19 confirmed cases and many predict the State is nearing its peak infection rate. This is NOT cause for anyone to let down our guard; the more strictly we self-isolate the less impactful the wave of disease will be. 

We are developing contingency plans for summer youth camp if they are permitted and safe to conduct; these include operations at 75% capacity, 50% capacity, and 25% capacity. We assume we will lose our non-North American campers and staff due to travel restrictions, border measures, and parental concerns. All of these plans will necessitate “social” (physical) distancing among participants, rigorous health screenings (including recent travel and contact history and temperature checks), and significantly increased sanitization practices.

Unfortunately, our Kesem program for youth who have been impacted by a parent’s cancer has been postponed to 2021 due to timing issues and the risk of bringing infection home to immunocompromised family members.

We are in discussion currently regarding the potential cancellation of our own Yowidica program for youth with diabetes, as these individuals have been demonstrably shown to have higher risk factors for negative outcomes if the develop Covid-19.

If operable, our summer program will infuse more fun academic work into the traditional program to help make-up for lost in-class school time. For example, we can incorporate more Science into our Nature program, Math in to boating, and Social Studies/History into our evening programs.

We have frozen all non-vital purchases and other expenses. Itza Morales remains our only paid employee at this time.  Her role as Registrar and Office Manager is vital to help participants register for programs or rent the facility post-summer. We are sacrificing like many of you and are working to be efficient and responsible with our budget.

We will waive our usual family income/size criteria to receive scholarships/financial aid for local families that have experienced significantly negative circumstances, such as lay-offs or furloughs, due to the Covid crisis.

In the event that no summer youth camp is permissible, we will shift into family activities whereby three households can reserve four-hour blocks or an evening and overnight for traditional camp programming with a limited staff (ie. boating, swimming, crafts, Nature, athletics, Challenge course, etc.).  Upon consultation with the DOH, we believe we will be able to run such programming if we can adhere to safety; no two families will come into contact, program areas will be thoroughly sanitized between families, staff will wear protective masks, etc.

In the case of a cessation of summer youth camp operations, we will communicate this status to all camper families as soon as reasonably possible.  Full refunds will be provided (including deposits) for:

  • Any cancelled session.
  • For for any participant who is ill (for any illness). This has always been our policy.
  • For any participant who has been in close contact with an individual(s) who have recently (within the previous month) been communicably ill.

Participants who lose an opportunity to attend Onyahsa due to a COVID-19 mandated closure of the program will have the first opportunity to attend Onyahsa’s next available programs, including summer family outings and significantly increased fall and winter camps for youth and families.

In the event of summer program cancellation, we have plans to offer additional fall and winter programs and to provide current Camp participants access to special online content to remain at least virtually connected to the Onyahsa community.  As part of this effort, we will offer increase opportunities for families to rent cabins for informal programming. 

Participants (campers or staff) who have recently traveled abroad or who have otherwise spent time in a CDC-Level 3 Zone (Travel Health Notice for widespread/ongoing transmission) must refrain from attending Camp for three weeks prior arrival at Onyahsa.  A question to this effect will be asked of all 2020 summer participants.

We are in communication with the Department of Health for the use of our facility for overnight childcare for essential medical personnel, housing for medical personnel who wish not to reside at home due to fear of contamination, and emergency housing for healthy nursing home residents in the event of a Covid infection at their facility. These offerings will remain in place until June 1 (unless extended due to widespread local infection).

We will continue to keep you updated with information and policies as the summer situation comes to be better understood.  In the meantime, please feel free to contact the Camp Director at (716) 664-2802 ext. 228 or via director@onyahsa.org if you have questions or concerns.  We update our social media, Onyahsa at Instagram and Camp Onyahsa on Facebook daily. Check them out for Camp trivia, mini-lessons, retro-photos, virtual campfires and much more!

We also refer you to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html and related information from the World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/ and the NYS Department of Health: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus/

We are proceeding as-if we are able to operate a “normal” summer; staff are being hired, program plans are under construction, and the site is under preparation. We will continue to do so unless we hear otherwise.  Much is due to how well we—as a society—work together to prevent the spread of the Corona-2019 ncov virus.  However, we are Camp People- always innovative, prepared, and optimistic!

We know that you and your children will need Camp more than ever once we are safely on the other side of this crisis, and we stand ready to serve you as we have for 122 years. Together we will overcome this current test. Your support is vital, deeply meaningful, and greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your understanding and patience as we work together to provide a safe, happy, and healthy experience for our Onyahsa participants.

Sincerely,

Jon O’Brian, Camp Director

YMCA Camp Onyahsa

YMCA Camp Onyahsa COVID-19 Statement, March 10, 2020

Dear Camp Onyahsa Parents, Guardians, and Staff:

The safety, health and happiness of our campers and staff is our highest. As you know, the novel Corona virus (COVID-19) has spread widely, prompting quarantines and other measures worldwide.  No cases have yet been diagnosed in our region, but we expect this situation to change in the coming weeks and months. 

The situation at present, is very fluid, with the possible shift from containment to mitigation strategies and the likelihood of the viral illness’ dissipation the in warmer and more humid months yet unknown. Research thus far on the current strains has shown the disease to be less virulent among young people unless there are other underlying health conditions. 

Here is what we do know:  

Your and your child’s wellbeing at Camp Onyahsa is our paramount concern.  We also do not want campers to bring an illness home, especially to older family members or those with underlying health conditions. 

Because the program operates within a close community, Onyahsa already has a communicable disease plan in-place. Campers have long experienced a health screening, including the taking of bodily temperature by our Health Staff, soon after arrival at Onyahsa, and during mid-week of each session.  This process and procedures will be actively reviewed and heightened in light of the COVID-19 disease. 

We employ an experienced Registered Nurse for each summer session, who is in communication with our off-site Camp physician as needed.  

The Camp will increase the sanitization of hard surfaces that are commonly touched. Hand sanitizer and facial tissues/appropriate trash receptacles will be available in all residential and program areas. 

The program will stress proper hygiene (ie. sneezing/coughing into a tissue, avoiding unnecessary physical contact with others, washing/sanitizing hands properly, and avoiding the touching of one’s own eyes, nose, and mouth, etc.)  

We are an American Camp Association accredited program, and will rely on this national organization’s guidance with respect to Best Practices in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

We operate under provision of the New York State Department of Health, and will heed its mandates and guidelines with respect to this outbreak and other health or safety concerns.  

We will follow federal guidelines as established by the Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC), and will monitor this information daily.  

We will not offer camping sessions if ordered to do so by local, State, or federal authorities.  

In the case of a cessation of operations, we will communicate this status to all camper families as soon as reasonably possible.  Full refunds will be provided (without the Camp’s claim to deposits) for: 

Any cancelled session.

  • For any participant who is ill (for any illness). This has always been our policy.
  • For any participant who has been in close contact with an individual(s) who have recently (within the previous month) been communicably ill.

Participants (campers or staff) who have recently traveled abroad or who have otherwise spent time in a CDC-Level 3 Zone (Travel Health Notice for widespread/ongoing transmission) must refrain from attending Camp for three weeks prior arrival at Onyahsa.  A question to this effect will be asked of all 2020 summer participants.  

Participants who lose an opportunity to attend Onyahsa due to a COVID-19 mandated closure of the program will have the first opportunity to attend Onyahsa’s next available programs. 

In the event of summer program cancellation, we have plans to offer additional fall and winter programs and to provide current Camp participants access to special online content to remain at least virtually connected to the Onyahsa community.  

We will continue to keep you updated with information and policies as the summer situation comes to be better understood.  In the meantime, please feel free to contact the Camp Director at (716) 664-2802 ext. 228 or via director@onyahsa.org if you have questions or concerns.  We also refer you to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html  

Thank you for your understanding and patience as we work together to provide a safe, happy, and healthy experience for our Onyahsa participants.  

Sincerely, 

Jon O’Brian, Camp Director

YMCA Camp Onyahsa